In 1960, American architect Philip Johnson championed the work of Friedrich Kiesler, calling him “the greatest non building architect of our time.” Around the same time, paper or visionary architecture—marked by its impractical or utopian qualities—was experiencing a renaissance. Disillusioned by traditional built architectonic forms, many architects were seeking more revolutionary and cross-disciplinary approaches to the practice. Kiesler spoke often of the importance of this kind of cross-referencing, saying that “sculpture, painting, architecture should not be used as wedges to split our experience of art and life; they are here to link, to correlate, to bind dream and reality.”
Using visual depictions of infinity via spirals, curves and fantastical environments, Kiesler’s architecture was easily amenable to his artistic practice and avant-garde theatre and exhibition design work. Born in Austria in 1890, and coming of age during the heyday of Surrealism, Kiesler worked primarily as a set and exhibition designer in 1920s Vienna and Berlin. In 1924, he arranged the world premiere, in Vienna, of the 16-minute film ‘Ballet mécanique’, directed by Dudley Murphy and Fernand Léger, with Man Ray. Kiesler was heavily influenced by avant-garde art movements of the time and these tendencies come across in his unique approach to architecture and spatial practice. His polydimensional architectural drawings and plans were often compared to Surrealist automatic drawings.
In 1939, Kiesler coined the term ‘Correalism’, which subsequently became a design theory in its own right. Through Correalism, he envisioned an interconnected architecture that would play on the co-related nature of humans, forms, space and time. His crowning achievement in that regard was his 1959, unrealized ‘Endless House’ project. The design was a near-impossible prototype for a hive-like structure, which he envisioned as a living organism rather than a compilation of dead materials. The curved model contained many cavernous openings that would ideally be seen as elastic, both in their form and function. Kiesler’s treatment of model-making as a fluid creative process inspired coming generations of architects to soften the borders between art and architecture. In the many prototypical manifestations of the ‘Endless House’, egg, womb and cave formations proposed psychoanalytic proximity to ideas of the maternal ‘home’.
Martin-Gropius-Bau is launching the first comprehensive exhibition of Kiesler’s work in Germany on March 11th, and the show aims to delve into many facets of his complex oeuvre, through central projects, important artistic friendships and collective works. Kiesler died in 1965 in New York City, where he lived and worked from the mid-1930s onward. The exhibition will show some of Kiesler’s little-known sculptural projects and drawings that illustrate his connection to and creative evolution in Berlin’s ‘Golden Twenties’.
Berlin Art Link is offering a raffle for 4 tickets (2×2) to the Friedrich Kiesler exhibition. To win, please Like and Share our post of this announcement on your Facebook page, and tag a friend you’d like to bring along!